Therapy for Freelancers
In 2017, it was estimated that nearly 800 million people had some sort of mental health issue, so if you fall into that category, know that you aren’t alone, and certainly not the only one seeking help. Depression and anxiety account for the lion’s share of that number, but there are plenty of other conditions that can be aided by therapy. Even if you don’t necessarily think you suffer from depression, anxiety, or some kind of emotional disorder (or if you think you might but have never been diagnosed), the advice and guidance of a therapist can be deeply valuable; both to your wellbeing, and your career as a freelancer.
WHY IT MAKES EMOTIONAL SENSE
The primary benefit therapy provides freelancers is a greater ability to build new plans and patterns, dispose of old negative plans and patterns, and discover plans and patterns you never thought of previously. Adaptability is key to the life of a freelancer, and thus an adaptive mindset is necessary. Freelancers are constantly forming new career goals, work practices, and daily routines while simultaneously disposing of old ones that no longer work, or fit their needs. Anxiety about the future, frustration about the past, or a lack of self-awareness are all inhibitors of that adaptability. Therapy is a central part of overcoming those obstacles.
It isn’t only your mental health that therapy can improve. Many studies have shown powerful correlations between physical and mental health. For the same reasons that exercise promotes mental wellness, therapy promotes physical.
For freelancers interested in therapy, the science backs your decision. Cambridge University did a study in 2010 which concluded that, “alleviating psychological distress through psychological therapy could be at least 32 times more cost effective than financial compensation.” Quite literally, money does not buy happiness.
WHY IT MAKES FINANCIAL SENSE
That being said, therapy can also provide financial reward. It will of course, cost you money up front, but certain therapy bills and insurance premiums can be written off on your taxes as a medical expense. You can write off more than just direct therapy costs too! Your mileage, road tolls, and parking fees can also be considered medical expenses.
Consider also the direct impact on your career. If you have mental health struggles that impact your day-to-day life, you simply aren’t as productive as you could be. That lack of productivity can cause even more stress, and now you can barely get any work done. The more you can minimize certain stressors, the more productive you will be, and the more successful (and profitable) your career trajectory.
WHY IT’S EASIER THAN YOU THINK
For a long time, psychotherapy was about fixing a specific mental condition, and if what you were feeling wasn’t considered a specific condition (according to a psychologist), then you didn’t need therapy. With the birth, and massive growth, of positive psychology in the 60s and 70s, that concept has changed drastically. We understand now that therapy can be beneficial to everyone and the mental health industry has changed to reflect that. A variety of therapy fields, styles, and mediums have developed to give to people easier access to a mental health professional.
It's hard to determine exactly what type of therapy you need just by reading an article, but a good place to start for many people is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). CBT focuses on identifying negative thoughts and assessing the actual truth of them. CBT is the most common form of therapy and a common choice for those with anxiety or depression. Another option is a practice called humanistic therapy. If you feel that CBT isn’t pragmatic enough to fulfill your needs, humanistic therapy is focused on directly making you the best version of yourself possible, and provides specific actions you can take to get there. For those who feel their stress is coming from their relationships or marriage, a specialist such as a marriage or family therapist could be best to start with. If you just want to talk to someone, finding a counselor or LCSW might be a good place to start.
If you still aren’t quite ready to commit to therapy, there are alternatives. In an interview with Greater Good Magazine, psychotherapist Lori Gottlieb lays out another option: connection. When asked what would make therapy less necessary in society, she emphasized connection. In short, having a greater sense of connection to those around us and engaging in more “I/thou” relationships, has a significant impact on personal happiness. For freelancers and non-traditional workers, the lack of office setting, while freeing, can contribute to greater isolation. Freelancers would benefit from joining a group that provides such connection, like a recreational sports team, or an interest group for something you’re passionate about. It could provide what you need without going to therapy.
Once you have a general idea of what you need, the next hurdle is to figure out the format that works best for you. Some people prefer the connection that only comes from in-office visits. For others, online therapy is becoming a much more viable option, and phone calls or video chats from your home might be worth considering. One of the greatest benefits of online therapy is the broader selection of therapists and specializations you can choose from. Sites like BetterHelp have made it incredibly easy to find the right therapist if the one you currently have isn’t working.
The broader culture is more supportive of going to therapy than ever before. The stigma that was once associated with “seeing a shrink” doesn’t exist in the same manner that it did even a decade ago. Feel confident in your decision, should you choose to pursue therapy in whatever manner works best for you.